[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first season of Netflix's Lost in Space]
Netflix's new take on Lost in Space is ostensibly exactly what the old one was about: The Robinsons, a family in the future, find themselves... wait for it... lost in space. But the most interesting character in the show is made of metal. The robot from the original Lost in Space has been updated for a big-budget TV show not just in looks (goodbye moving trashcan!), but also with an intriguing backstory that may just be the key to the whole series.
To get more insight into our metal friend, we talked to Lost in Space showrunners Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama. (No, they didn't tell us who built it or where it's from.)
How did you go about writing this friendship between the robot and Will and what did you want to accomplish with that?
Burk Sharpless: The relationship between Will and the robot is really the heart of the story. And we tapped into the 13-year-old sense of wouldn't it be great to have a robot of our own? We were inspired by movies like The Black Stallion and E.T. and even Terminator 2 of what would happen. That wish fulfillment of you have this protector, this bodyguard, this friend do whatever you wanted it to and is always there for you. In the story, what happens if this great friend of yours also has a dark side and is potentially really dangerous? So then you're put in a position where you're a kid and you're responsible for something that could be very harmful to people. That was a really exciting and emotional, and thrilling place to put a character named Will Robinson.
Matt Sazama: You see in the course of the season that coming of age that he has in the middle. That sort of revelation that's so heart-wrenching that as much as he loves the robot, perhaps he is bad. That journey... Will has grown up in front of our eyes. It was kinda the thing we built Season 1 around.
Why does the robot save Will in the finale even though it was linked to Dr. Smith? Did it just make a conscious choice?
Burk Sharpless: Part of that is a mystery and hopefully we [make it] an ongoing story. The story of the robot in Season 1 is really is it good or is it bad? Can we trust it or can we not trust it? And with stories about artificial intelligence robots, there's always that moment of,"Is it just a machine following orders or does it have free will? Does it have a soul? Does it have consciousness?" So what we were trying to indicate is did it make an actual choice at the end for itself. Can the robot make a choice for itself of will it follow my original programming? Will it be a machine that kills or can it have true friendship? Can it have love? Can it protect this boy that I've become so attached to? Hopefully people will have feelings at the end that the robot has taken the first step into a larger world as well.
The Robot has two clear modes, as shown by its "face" turning red or blue. How would you describe those two different modes?
Matt Sazama: Again, there's a lot of mystery here that will sort of tantalize audiences to try to put together why it looks different when it's in that sort of hostile mode and why it takes on a humanoid form when it connects with Will. In some sense, it's an obvious story we're telling, right? Where you see it in this place of being kind of like a dangerous killer or a wild animal in the very beginning. And wounded in the tree. And then when it connects with Will, it changes. And it is evolved in some sense. One of the stories of the season, and maybe the show, is did it evolve and how much did it? We definitely are not answering that at all definitively this season.
Lost in Space is currently streaming on Netflix.